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The drawing disconnect

This morning marked the first day of construction for a new restaurant I've been working on in my weekday job, and it is exciting! It's a charmer of a project, and you all will be happy to eat dinner there, but mostly this part of the architectural process - the transition to construction - has always felt exceedingly gratifying. There is a reason we architects face the computer and type the line and offset and trim command all day every day, pan and zoom, zoom and pan. I remember distinctly visiting my first job site after college - the renovation of a set of schools in Babylon, Long Island. Walking into the high school where the contractors were laying out the walls blew my fatigue-patterned jeans off (and yes, I was made fun of by those very high school students for those very pants. I still love those pants). I drew the location of the walls a year prior, forgot about it, and then poof - there they were, materialized!  A whole new form of communication opened to me in that moment - it was the language of the drawing. Dang, this work just got interesting!

I often wonder why that has always been such a disconnect to me - that the builder actually builds what the drawings show. Perhaps it's because it seems to be one-sided communication for the majority of the process - me and the computer, developing a relationship that doesn't tend to imply any sort of final product. And then, suddenly, the drawings land in the hands of the builder, and the beauty materializes. It will never stop putting a smile on my face.

Now, though, with this tiny house build, the storyline is changing. In many ways I've given up the traditional role of the architect in favor of learning how to be the builder, yet I'm keenly aware of the impact construction decisions have on the design. No typical set of drawings exists. I, my dad, and whoever is helping out at the time, work off 8.5x11 not-to-scale prints of pertinent aspects, and I'll run up to the computer whenever I have a dimensional question or need additional clarity on a detail. If I produced a set of drawings ahead of time, so much information would be lacking to make it hardly worth it. Even a semi-seasoned builder would know where to put a king stud, and to start the 16" on center spacing from the center of the first stud rather than from it's end, but I didn't know that until about a week ago, and I'm only beginning to see how much these decisions matter.   If the building process is a communication, I've mostly only heard one side of the conversation.

This is new territory, and now I'm listening.

And dang, it just got a whole lot more interesting...

It has framed walls! Three of them! And you can begin to see the shape - an idea materializing! Still blows me away.

It has framed walls! Three of them! And you can begin to see the shape - an idea materializing! Still blows me away.

This really doesn't look safe, but he made it unscathed. Way to leave the hard work to the dad and the uncle.  You can almost read the learning process from right to left of this wall. I thought the top sill plates that meet the lintel were a good idea to place there because the loft framing could rest on them. It didn't occur to me that it mattered how those top plates met the adjoining wall.  The right side of this wall took three weekends to build. The left side? A few hours.

This really doesn't look safe, but he made it unscathed. Way to leave the hard work to the dad and the uncle.  You can almost read the learning process from right to left of this wall. I thought the top sill plates that meet the lintel were a good idea to place there because the loft framing could rest on them. It didn't occur to me that it mattered how those top plates met the adjoining wall.  The right side of this wall took three weekends to build. The left side? A few hours.

You'll notice a bunch of studs are missing. Evidence of my lack of faith in the architectural drawing, which after putting those studs in place, proved to be completely right. Faith restored. I'm willing to continue paying back student loans.

You'll notice a bunch of studs are missing. Evidence of my lack of faith in the architectural drawing, which after putting those studs in place, proved to be completely right. Faith restored. I'm willing to continue paying back student loans.